Tough decision for town council on brewery patio application

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

It may seem like a no-brainer to approve a patio development for a local craft brewery. Good for the business, good for the community, etc. What harm can it do?
On the other hand, the principle of separating retail commercial uses from industrial ones is well-established and defendable. Opening the door for one type of non-compliant use in an industrial zone means others will try to get through it. Those are some of the issues Slave Lake town councillors grappled with on the application by Dog Island Brewing (DIB) for permission to put a patio at its Caribou Trail location.
“The whole point of the revitalization of downtown,” pointed out planning and development director Laurie Skrynyk, is to draw people and business to the downtown area. Allowing retail businesses to set up shop in industrial areas works against that.
“Agreed,” said mayor Tyler Warman. “But I think it’s worth taking a look at.”
The debate followed an earlier public hearing on the bylaw change that proposed various amendments aimed at making a craft brewery a permitted use in Slave Lake industrial districts. That was all to the benefit of DIB, and acknowledged by principals Ben Fiddler and Chad Paulson, who attended the public hearing to speak up in favour of the bylaw change. The only thing missing in the amended bylaw, from their point of view, was the patio piece.
Fiddler and Paulson tackled the “obvious conflicts” listed in Skrynyk’s report, saying in each case they wouldn’t be a problem. Parking, dust, fumes, what have you. Paulson also noted that the town of Lacombe (after whose bylaw the Slave Lake amendment was fashioned), recently approved a similar patio development in an industrial area.
Several DIB supporters also spoke up in favour of the patio idea, seeing no problems and plenty of benefits.
Nobody on council (or town admin) was disputing the benefits of having a craft brewery in town. But the zoning issue is a sticky one. As a rule, said Warman, “We try to guide (retail) to downtown and industrial to industrial.” He noted that the town just spent a good deal of money on its downtown revitalization plan, and approving non-compliant retail uses in an industrial area seems to work directly against that. It would be far better to have craft brewery operating in the downtown area.
“Our goal is to get downtown,” said Fiddler. “But prices are too high.”
In the later discussion, council heard that the planning department is flatly opposed to the patio idea, for the reasons already mentioned. Skrynyk reiterated the validity of the principle of separation of uses by zoning district. But not all councillors agreed.
“I think this is a unique situation,” said councillor Phil Lokken, disagreeing. “I don’t believe there are small businesses lining up to move to the industrial area.”
Skrynyk advised that if council is inclined to further amend the bylaw to allow the patio – even for a trial period – it would require another multi-week delay in its passage, including all the non-controversial parts designed to allow DIB to proceed with its brewery expansion.
Accordingly, council gave the amended bylaw second and third readings.
Following that, councillor Missal made a motion to have administration look into the possibility of allowing a patio at the Caribou Trail location. It passed by a 6 – 1 vote, with councillor Brandle opposed.

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